Monthly Archives: December 2011

Verizon Caves

I was going to write about Verizon's decision to charge a $2 "convenience fee" to its customers who make payments over the phone or online with their credit cards.

I was going to rant what a scam it was.  After all, it's convenient to Verizon when people pay that way.  They get the money quicker (than by check).

I was going to suggest that the FCC look into this, but then I noticed a story on Reuters which came out 24 minutes ago.

And then, you'll never guess what came across the AP wire six minutes ago:


Obama-Clinton in 2012

Wait.  Obama-Clinton

Robert Reich, among others, thinks it is a great idea.

My political prediction for 2012 (based on absolutely no inside information): Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden swap places. Biden becomes Secretary of State — a position he’s apparently coveted for years. And Hillary Clinton, Vice President.  

So the Democratic ticket for 2012 is Obama-Clinton.

Why do I say this? Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

Moreover, the economy won’t be in superb shape in the months leading up to Election Day. Indeed, if the European debt crisis grows worse and if China’s economy continues to slow, there’s a better than even chance we’ll be back in a recession. Clinton would help deflect attention from the bad economy and put it on foreign policy, where she and Obama have shined. 

The deal would also make Clinton the obvious Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 — offering the Democrats a shot at twelve (or more) years in the White House, something the Republicans had with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush but which the Democrats haven’t had since FDR. Twelve years gives the party in power a chance to reshape the Supreme Court as well as put an indelible stamp on America. 

According to the latest Gallup poll, the duo are this year’s most admired man and woman This marks the fourth consecutive win for Obama while Clinton has been the most admired woman in each of the last 10 years. She’s topped the list 16 times since 1993, exceeding the record held by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who topped the list 13 times.

Obama-Clinton in 2012. It’s a natural. 

I have to admit… I like it too.  Although, I also have to admit… Hillary is actually a great Secretary of State, a job in which you actually do things (unlike the vice presidency).  It would be sad to see her leave that post.

Quote Of The Day

This comes from Rep. Jerry Bergevin, a Republican state senator in the state of New Hampshire.  He's backing a bill in which evolution should be taught in New Hampshire schools, but it should be, in his view, exposed for what it is:

[Bergevin's] bill would require schools to teach evolution as a theory, and include "the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."

"I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they've been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don't respect human rights," he said.

"As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . . Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That's evidence right there," he said.



Jesus Wept

Here is footage of a fight among Christians.  It involves two rival Christian groups — Orthodox clerics versus Armenian clerics.

That makes it interesting enough, but there's a lot more.

They are fighting with brooms.  Why?  Because they were cleaning up when the fight broke out.

And what were they cleaning?  The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.

That's right… a bunch of Christians starting beating up on each other in the very place where Christ was born.  The church is cleaned after the Christmas celebrations (as celebrated by most Christians) and before the first week in January (when Christ's birth is celebrated by those who follow the Julian calendar). Apparently, according to news reports, this erupted over a dispute about "jurisdiction" inside the church.

The fight had to be broken up by — oh, how embarrassing — Muslim police.  (Well, Palestinian police, most of whom are Muslim)

Best part: look for the monk capturing the fight on his iPhone.


Santorum Gets His Surge

As Newt plummets, Santorum gets his notice to come up in the polls.  At least in Iowa.  Which doesn't matter, because it's not a real primary, and the conservatives there are batshit crazy.

But it's nice to see that Santorum is getting a little notice.  And he has plans to fix things:

WASHINGTON — At a campaign event in Iowa on Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum laid out his simple two-point plan for eradicating poverty in America.

"Do you know if you do two things in your life — if you do two things in your life, you're guaranteed never to be in poverty in this country? What two things, that if you do, will guarantee that you will not be in poverty in America?" he asked the crowd.

"Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children," he said. "If you do those two things, you will be successful economically. What does that mean to a society if everybody did that? What that would mean is that poverty would be no more. If you want to have a strong economy, there are two basic things we can do."

Ah, I see.  Get rid of poverty by graduating high school, then getting married.

Not GAY married, I presume.

Now it's true… a 2009 study by the Brookings Institution did find that Americans who finished high school, acquired a full-time job and waited until age 21 to get married before having children were much less likely to end up in poverty.  But oddly enough, Santorum's proposal left out the crucial part: acquiring a full-time job.

Yes, I would say that acquiring a full-time is probably the KEY to ending poverty, much more so than finishing high school and getting married.

Anyway, it's RIck's turn to step out of the clown car and into the national spotlight.  I give him a week before he's got pie in the face.  He's off to a good start.

When, of course, he crashes, it will devestate his daughter, just as his congressional loss in 2008 did.


Actually, it's the crazy bespeckled son that I worry about.  Kid's gonna snap.

Tolerance Does Not Mean Tolerating The Intolerant

"Tolerance", I suspect, isn't a word that was thrown around much 50 years ago.  But it does seem to be a buzzword today.  Everyone accepts and agrees that tolerance is a value and virtue.  But for some — those who haven't really gotten the memo on what "tolerance" means – the word means, in essence, "you must put up with my prejudice and bigotry".

This interesting selfishness is on display in a New York Times article today.  Many state laws require non-discrimination in adoption services.  In other words, if you are an adoption agency or a similar charitable organization, you must permit adoptions by gay couples as well as straight couples.

This poses a problem for Catholic Charities, who have had contracts with state governments to assist in adoption services:

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The article notes that Catholic Charities does good work.  Or, at least, it quotes people who insist that Catholic Charities does good work.  And I don't doubt it.  But to point that out is kind of like saying the Woolworth lunch counter in 1950's Greensboro makes really good sundaes.  In other words, it misses the point.

The point: you're exercising in discrimination.

The article goes on to quote Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

 “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,” he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.”

Note to Anthony:  You are excluded from a contract, but it's NOT based on your religious beliefs.  It's based on a requirement — which applies to everyone, not just religious institutions — that you don't discriminate.

Now Catholic Church is whining, because those state contracts account from 60 to 90 percent of the charities' revenues.  And now, they complain, they can't continue the "good work" of putting children into homes.

Listen, Jesus didn't require state contracts to do what He did.  And not for nothing, but I don't think the Catholic Church is starving for cash.  Just sayin'.

John Aravosis has some thoughts too:

The Catholic church isn't asking for freedom of religion. They want a tyranny of religion. They want to force everyone else to live under their rules. Such as their rules that say when a priest rapes a kid, or a lot of kids, you move him to another parish quietly where he can start raping even more kids. That's their definition of freedom of religion. It's the freedom to impose their moral code, as it is, on the rest of society. And while that might fly in Tehran, it doesn't fly in America.

The rest of us also have freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, guaranteed in our Constitution as well. The Catholics are only able to exercise their rights to the degree that it doesn't impose on any other rights that the rest of us are guaranteed. They don't seem to understand, or care, that other Americans have rights too. Whether those Americans are gays, or small children.

2012 Dead Pool

I like this time of year because all the lists come out.  The Best of… The Worst of…  It goes on and on and on.  I tend not to get reflective, myself.  Not anymore.  I've seen too many years now to think that any given year, either the past or the upcoming one, is going to be dramatically different.  Which isn't to say that I wouldn't like 2012 to be a superlative year, but if it isn't, I'm sure it won't suck.

So I have no Best of or Worst of thoughts of my own.  I just have my dead pool.  My little morbid year end summary.

Last year, I provided a list of several people I thought would die in 2011.  Let's see how I did.

My long list:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor – still alive
  • Bob Barker – still alive
  • Mike Wallace – still alive
  • Jack LaLanne – died 1/24/11
  • Harry Morgan – died 12/7/11
  • Olivia de Havilland – still alive
  • Michael Dukakis – still alive
  • Billy Graham – still alive, barely
  • Betty Garrett – died 2/12/11
  • Eli Wallach – still alive
  • Stan Musial – still alive
  • Abe Vagoda – still alive
  • Nancy Reagan – still alive
  • Both Kirk and Michael Douglas – both still alive
  • Aretha Franklin – still alilve
  • Al Jarreau – still alive
  • Margaret Thatcher – still alive
  • Norman Lear – still alive
  • Jean Stapleton – still alive
  • Yogi Berra – still alive
  • James Garner – still alive
  • Lauren Becall – still alive
  • Jack Klugman – still alive
  • Both Mickey and Andy Rooney – Mickey's alive; Andy, not so much (died 11/4/11)
  • Jeff Conaway – died 5/27/11
  • Both Garry and Penny Marshall – both still alive
  • Dick Clark – still alive
  • Gene Wilder – still alive
  • Fidel Castro – still alive

On the whole, my predictions were not too good.

Then, last year, I did a "competition" list for the "Dead Pool" game.  There IS an actual "Dead Pool" game.  What you do is pick ten famous people to die in a given year.  If they die, then you take 100 minus their age when they died.  So if someone 75 years old dies, you get 25 points. Someone 98 years old dies? Oh! That's a two pointer.  Person with the highest number on January 1, 2012, wins.

Obviously, the goal is to pick someone younger who is likely to die.  Although realistically, the younger they are, the more UNlikely they are to die.  That's the trick of the game.

Here was last year's entries:

  1. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  2. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  3. Dick Clark (born 11/30/1929)
  4. Al Jarreau (born 3/12/1940)
  5. Dick Cheney (born 1/30/1941)
  6. Aretha Franklin (born 3/25/1942)
  7. Penny Marshall (born 10/15/1942)
  8. Michael Douglas (born 9/25/1944)
  9. Jeff Conaway (born 10/5/1950)
  10. Amy Winehouse (born 9/14/1983)

I get zero points for Gabor, Graham, Clark, Jarreau, Cheney, Franklin, Marshall, and Douglas, since they all lived.  I scored bigtime with the two youngest on my list — Jeff Conaway and Amy Winehouse.

With Jeff, I got 40 points (he died at the age of 60).

With Amy, I got 73 points (she died at the age of 27).

Final score: 113 points.  Which is really good.

And now it's time for my new lists.  First the long one — ones that I simply think will die.  I naturally carry over many from last year, but some are now off the list, and others are on:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Billy Graham
  • Eli Wallach
  • Stan Musial
  • Al Jarreau
  • Norman Lear
  • Jean Stapleton
  • Yogi Berra
  • Lauren Becall
  • Jack Klugman 
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Fidel Castro
  • Ernest Borgnine
  • Pete Seeger
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Monty Hall
  • Sid Caesar
  • Rose Marie
  • Jerry Lewis

And now for my competitive Dead Pool list (I reserve the right to change this up to 12/31/11):

  1. Eli Wallach (born 12/07/1915)
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  3. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  4. Margaret Thatcher (born 10/13/1925)
  5. James Garner (born 4/7/1928)
  6. Dick Cheney (born 1/30/1941)
  7. Penny Marshall (born 10/15/1942)
  8. Robin Gibb (born 12/22/1949)
  9. George Michael (born 6/25/1963)
  10. Charlie Sheen (born 9/3/1965)

And Lindsay Lohan, consider yourself lucky cuz you're a shoe-in for these things.

File Under “Ookey”

I've never given much thought to my sexual orientation.  Being straight in a largely straight world, I guess I never had to.  I'd like to think that if I was gay, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

Except that if I was gay, this would bother me to no end.  A new book…

Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President by Don Fulsom (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99), former correspondent for United Press International, makes several eye-catching accusations, including that the former president had a gay affair with Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, a Key Biscayne, Fla. banker apparently with ties to the mob.

I suspect it's not true.  I suspect it's a trash non-fiction book and as such, it deals in gossip and untruths.

Still, the very idea of a gay Nixon is troubling.

Want Some Good Blog Reading?

Jon Swift was a blogger from a few years ago who may have been one of the best bloggers ever.  His satiric writing is legendary, like that of his namesake.  Unfortunately, Jon Swift (aka Al Weisel) died suddenly in February 2010.

One of Swift's pet projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up.  Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog.  His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

That tradition lives on.  Vagabond Scholar has picked up the Swift Roundup mantle.  If you want some really good blog reading from this past year, go there.  Some posts take only a minute to read; others longer.  These are the best posts of the year, as chosen by bloggers themselves. They are ALL good, and they are voices that you would otherwise be unlikely to hear.

I Can’t Keep Up

Google+ is out, and Pinterest is in?

Was Google+ ever in?  

And I'm told that Winterfell ("Game of Thrones") is out already, to be replaced in 2012 by District 11 ("Hunger Games").  I haven't even seen Game of Thrones yet.

I just got onto Spotify, which is apparently passe, too.  Bluebrain, the music that changes based on your location, is the trendy thing.

Fuck it.  Mary Tyler Moore reruns, please.

The GOP Landscape

I find it hard to comment on the GOP presidential bid, if only because it moves too quickly, and I'm not sure what I could add to the cacophany of punditry out there.  I mean, I like the gaffes, but even that has become "old hat".  It's almost pedantic and cliched now to point out the obvious:  that this field of candidates largely consists of a clown show.

But forge on I shall, with some random thoughts and predictions.

First, the unserious candidates.  These would be Herman Cain and Rick Perry.  These guys are (were) looking for a good gig — get some national spotlight and name recognition, up their fees for the lecture circuit, and — particularly in Cain's case — sell a book.  They haven't thought hard about the issues, and when pressed on why they haven't thought hard about them, their answer (implicitly, if not explicitly) is that they don't need to think hard about them, because when they're elected, they will have advisors.  I mean, hell, if you're running for the highest political office, and you haven't staked out your position yet on topics close to your party's heart, you can't have been serious about running.

In West Wing terms, these guys are (were) running a Robert Ritchie campaign, i.e., a campaign centered primarily around likeablility and demeanor rather than substance.  Common perception is that George W. Bush got elected (twice!) this way: he may not know who the leaders of other countries are, but you would sure like to have a beer with him.

But Bush will not go down in history — by liberals or conservatives — as a good president.  Sure, he'll enjoy a renaissance and re-examination in 20 years, but even then, it won't elevate him to top-tier status.  Besides, we just had a Bush.  And I think anyone who adopts that approach is seriously looking to be President — at least not this time around.  (If Trump or Palin threw their hats in the ring, they too would fall under this category).

Again, these folks were never "in it to win it", but rather, they are (were) "in it to be in it".  That distinguishes them from…

The serious but delusional candidates.  These are candidates who think they actually could and should be president, but don't realize they have — and never had — a snowball's chance in hell.  In this category, I place Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum.  These are the "Tea Party" candidates — ones who are, and always have been, true to the Tea Party principles and the "family values" voters.

The problem with these two is that, although they are "in it to win it", they don't realize that their base is small.  The Tea Party isn't very popular, and the "family values" issues (abortion, no same-sex marriage) aren't the motivators that they once were, even for conservatives.  These candidates may surround themselves with like-minded people and advisors, but they fail to see that the issues that the greater population care about are much broader and, frankly, beyond their experience and expertise.  I'm sure both Bachmann and Santorum are scratching their heads wondering why they never have gotten their "day in the sun" as the anti-Romney candidate, and it's because they are delusional that they are ready for prime time.  Like the unserious candidates above, they will drop off after South Carolina primaries, if not sooner, once the money stops coming in.

That leaves Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman, I believe, is a serious candidate who is not delusional about his chances of being president.  Unlike Perry or Cain, I believe he is running to be President, his small chances notwithstanding.  He's smart.  He's qualified.  He's likeable.  He just doesn't have the name recognition or money to last the entire race. But he knows that and is making the noble effort anyway.

That leaves Romney, Gingrich, and Paul — any one of whom, I contend, could be the nominee.  Obviously, Romney remains for many the likely candidate, but as many more have pointed out, he's not exactly wowing the right.  He seems to have a glass ceiling of 25%, and always seems to be behind the polls in the parade of non-Romneys.  At the end of the day, I believe Romney will be the GOP candidate, and they will rally around him.  

Gingrich was (and is) the non-Romney candidate who I thought had the best chance to unseat Romney for the presumptive nominee throne.  But as many have pointed out, he's exactly what people on both the left and right don't like — a Washington insider who plays the political game to his own benefit (including, sin of all sins, his financial benefit).  He's smart and probably the best-versed of all the GOP candidates about D.C. politics, but he's not liked… even among people in his own party, including people that worked with him.  Arrogant and smarmy and a know-it-all.  He would give Obama a run for his money; as a red meat thrower, he might even be a better candidate to be the anti-Obama than Romney.  But I don't see that happening.  He will certainly last longer than the other non-Romney candidates, making it (perhaps) all the way to the convention.

Ron Paul is perhaps one of the strangest characters in the GOP race.  He is the libertarian candidate, and appeals to that wing of the Republican Party.  Still, some of his ideas seem extremely radical.  Getting rid of five entire departments?  I think people might applaud the loss of the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Interior, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, until they learn what those departments actually do for Americans. He would privatize the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration?  Do people really think that would make things better?  This man is not conservative, if by "conservative" one means "keeping things pretty much as they are".  He's talking about major changes to the government, and I don't think people will like them once they understand the consequences.


But Paul has rabid followers, lots of money, and a good organization.  He will no doubt influence the debate throughout the whole election season, and I wouldn't be surprised if his candidacy lasts up to the convention.  But the actual nomination?  I don't see it, especially with these newsletters around his neck.

So we have a few more months of this ridiculousness, and I think once the pack winnows down to a manageable three (serious) candidates, it should become more interesting.  Right now, it's like watching a pie fight with a bunch of clowns riding bumper cars — too chaotic and too random to make serious commentary.

Did The Framers Intend Gridlock?

Jeff Jacoby has an insanely stupid column in The Boston Globe arguing that "Yes, Virginia, the founding fathers wanted our governing bodies to be dysfunctional".

It's one of those pieces that makes you dumber for reading it.

Jacoby conflates "checks and balances" with "girdlock" as if the two things are synonymous:

What the smart set bewails today as “gridlock’’ or “brinksmanship’’ or an “agenda of pure nihilism,’’ the architects of the American system regarded as indispensable checks and balances. They knew how flawed human beings can be, and how ardently propelled by their passions and ideals.

No, Jeff.  The "smart set" is bemoaning gridlock and they know the difference between gridlock and "checks and balances".  Jacoby then attempts to support his thesis with, you know, evidence:

That was why they regarded restraint — not speed, not deference to presidents, not bipartisan cooperation, not administrative expertise, not popular opinion — as the linchpin of their constitutional plan. “Impressions of the moment may sometimes hurry [Congress] into measures which itself on mature reflection would condemn,’’ Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 73. They may not have envisioned supercommittees, Gallup polls, or MSNBC. But they knew that presidents and lawmakers would always be under pressure to act too fast, do too much, decide too quickly. So it was essential, Hamilton said, that hurdles and roadblocks be incorporated into the constitutional structure – “to increase the chances in favor of the community against the passing of bad laws through haste, inadvertence, or design.’’ True, that might sometimes hold up needed change. But “the injury which may possibly be done by defeating a few good laws will be amply compensated by the advantage of preventing . . . bad ones.’’

But is this the choice?  Reckless speed or gridlock?  Is there no in between for Jacoby?

What's more, Federalist 73 isn't about, nor does it endorse gridlock.  It is about presidential powers — most specifically, the veto power and the reasons for its necessity.  The veto power is necessary to prevent Congress to act without reckless haste.  And that makes sense, and I'm all for the veto power.

But congressional gridlock has nothing to do with the presidential veto power.  In fact, taken to its extremes (an accurate characterization of the current Congress' dysfunction), it actually denies the president his veto power.  This is precisely the intent of the GOP-led Congress.

Yes, the framers arguably intended the political process to be deliberate, even frustrating at times.  But not to the point where obscure congressional rules could thwart progress and literally LOCK legislation before it even gets to the President.

Back At Blogging

With Christmas Day in the rear view mirror, and life returning to normalcy, I hope to be back to blogging shortly (and hopefully with renewed energy and accuracy).

This Is Dangerous

Via The Corner:

Newt Gingrich spoke this morning about how he would curb judges’ power.

In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Gingrich said it was “inadequate” to wait for the appointment of good judges to change the judicial system, and suggested that judges should be impeached.

Speaking about Gingrich’s plan, Bob Schieffer noted that Gingrich proposed that “Congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before Congress and hold a congressional hearing” and then asked Gingrich, “How would you enforce that? Would you send the Capitol Police down to arrest him?

“Sure, if you had to,” Gingrich responded. “Or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshal. Let’s take the case of Judge Biery. I think he should be asked to explain a position that radical. How could he say he’s going to jail the superintendent over the word benediction and invocation?”

Fred Biery, a federal judge in Texas, ruled in June that a Texas high school could not have any religious language in a graduation ceremony.

“I would then encourage impeachment, but before you move to impeach him, you’d like to know why he said that,” Gingrich added.

This guy is talking about upsetting the balance of powers in a VERY dangerous way.  There is a reason why impeachment of judges is for "high crimes and misdemeanors".  When you start using impeachment for political reasons…. yikes!

Out Of Touch

Hard to keep a blog going when you are about 24-48 hours behind.

Kim Jong Il, is dead.  That's huge news.  Except I don't know what it means.  I mean, it's good, unless North Korea gets more crazy.

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.  Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

Short Takes

*  Britney Spears – who used to be famous – is engaged.  Uh, to be married.  Uh, again.  She's 16 years old still.

* Naughty Republicans — the mayor of Grandaven, Mississippi for 14 years — a guy named Greg Davis — re-ran for mayor in 2008 on a family values platform.  You know where this is going, right?  He's in trouble now for using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on liquor, expensive dinners at a local restaurant, and a visit to an adult store catering to gay men.  The latter revelation forced him to admit that he is gay.

* Naughty Tebaggers – Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was taken into custody Thursday morning after he tried to check in for a Delta flight to Detroit with a locked gun box containing a Glock pistol and 19 cartridges of ammunition, Queens prosecutors said. [CBS News]

*  The Florida Family Association can suck it.  Seriously.  The new show on TLC, called American Muslim, portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  The Florida Family Association objects to the show… because it portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  Apparently, you can now protest stuff because it ain't bigotted enough for you.  Oh, and screw you Loew's.

*  Every once in a while, Congress will do something good — like ban traditional incandescent light bulbs (which are inefficient and hurt the environment).  Unfortunately, the good die young.

RIP Chris Hitchens

I didn't agree with him on many things, particularly his perplexing defense of the Iraqi War, but I liked his style.

This, by the way, is one of his finest moments… on the death of Jerry Falwell:


Android’s Response To Siri

Google's voice command has been around for a couple of years, but when the newest iPhone came out, it included Siri, a voice command app that responded to natural language requests.  Most people agree that Siri was the coolest thing about the iPhone, and Siri has been highlighted in iPhone commercials.

Google, of course, wasn't going to take that lying down.  And so it has upgraded its Voice Actions app.  We should be seeing it by the end of the year.  It basically does what Siri does, but it is cooler in two respects:

(1)  Unlike with Apple, you don't have to buy a whole new phone to get it (your Honeycomb-enabled Android phone will update automatically)

(2)  It's named Majel, after Majel Roddenberry, who did all the voices for all the Star Trek TV shows and movies right up until she died.  Unfortunately, it's not her voice.  That would be beyond awesome.

Birther Stupidity

World News Daily (aka World Nut Daily) is actually boasting on their website about how they had an airplane fly over the Cowboys-Giants game this weekend, towing a banner inquiring about Obama's "real" birth certificate.

Yes, doing a banner flyover of a domed stadium.  Good call, guys.


Supreme Court to Rule On Arizona Immigration Law


The Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on Arizona's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, setting the stage for an election-year decision on an issue that is already shaping presidential politics.

The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several tough provisions in the Arizona law. One of those requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.

The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law by arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.

Kagen is sitting this case out, presumably because she worked on it when she was in the Obama administration.

It should be a no-brainer.  Immigration policy is a federal matter; states cannot get involved.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board probably thought it was "doing good" when it started airing and publishing ads like this:


The text reads:

She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.

When your friends drink, they can end up making bad decisions, like going home with someone they don’t know very well.

Decisions like that leave them vulnerable to dangers like date rape. Help your friends stay in control and stay safe.

The advertisement caused a serious backlash, and rightly so.  Let's unpack it a little, shall we?

First of all, the ad shows a shapely pair of legs on a bathroom floor with underwear around the (faceless) person’s ankles.  In essence, it depicts a Hollywood image of rape (oh my, how sexy) that is stereotypical and — if you can believe it — almost suggestive.  Now, so much advertising today is full of sexual imagery, but why would you want to "sex up" an ad that is about rape?  Take away the text and you could have an ad for nylons, or underwear, or even floor tiling.

But clearly the most offensive thing is the text, which puts the onus of rape prevention on the woman, who (if the ad is to be followed) should not get drunk because it impairs her decision-making.  Actually, it even puts the onus on the friends of women as well.

Not the rapist.

Mind you, the ad isn't wrong.  Drinking too much is certainly terrible for you, and yes, alcohol is a risk factor in rape, as it is in robbery, getting run down by a car, or any other crime that requires physical evasion. But is that a compelling or fair reason to have to completely change one’s habits?  The ad suggests that it is.

There's more insidiousness about the ad, and that is the fact that it comes from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  Few people know this, but it’s easier to get away with sexual assault in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the country.  Why?  Because it’s the only state that doesn’t allow expert testimony in rape cases. In other words, experts aren’t allowed to educate jurors about the behaviors of sexual assault victims and assailants.  This means that jurors are left making uninformed judgments about the behavior of the parties involved.  And all too often, "she was drunk" has been used as a successful way to "discredit" the victim in too many rape trials — people still think it’s solely a woman’s responsibility to guard against sexual assault.  And this ad perpetuates that problem.

There's a happy ending to this story: the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, responding to thousands of protest calls, letters, and emails, has decided to yank the ads.

Michelle Duggar Miscarries

CNN gives the latest on the Duggars, the family that decided to leave the number of children they have "up to God", and now have 19 kids:

A day of joyful anticipation has turned to anguish for Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

At a routine check-up Thursday to find out the sex of their 20th child, their doctor was unable to find a heartbeat and told the couple they had miscarried in the second trimester.

I poke fun at the Duggars, but not today.  Miscarriages are no cause for merriment.

But I do think Jim Bob and Michelle (age 45) really need to simply stop reproducing.  This is getting dangerous from a health standpoint.  And they shouldn't be glorified with a reality TV show.

I’m Opposed To Aborting Jesus, Too

The anti-abortion activists have a new protest tactic for Christmas — empty manger Christmas caroling!

Here, for example, is a schedule of upcoming events from a Pro-Life Wisconsin website:

Last year's Empty Manger Christmas Caroling effort was so popular, we're doing it again this year, and in more cities to boot!  

What better way to bring the joy of Christmas to a place where hopelessness abounds? 

Dates, times and locations as follows (please note the La Crosse location has been added and the Appleton time is finalized):

- Milwaukee: Pro-Life Wisconsin and 40 Days for Life of Milwaukee will be singing Christmas carols on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. both days, outside Affiliated Medical Services. Affiliated is located at 1428 N. Farwell Ave, Milwaukee. 

- Madison: PLW affiliate Vigil for Life will be singing Christmas carols on Dec. 22 at 5:30 pm at Planned Parenthood, 1306 Orin Road, Madison.  

- Green Bay: Pro-Life Wisconsin and 40 Days for Life of Green Bay will be singing Christmas carols on Dec. 23 at 3pm at Bellin Hospital, 744 South Webster Avenue, Green Bay. 

- Appleton: Pro-Life Wisconsin will be singing Christmas carols on Dec. 23 at 5:30 pm at Planned Parenthood, 3800 North Gillette Street, Appleton. 

- La Crosse: PLW affiliate 40 Days for Life of La Crosse will be singing Christmas carols on Dec. 22 at 3 pm at Options Clinic, 1201 Caledonia Street, La Crosse. 

We will have copies of Christmas carols and the empty manger. Please spread this message far and wide. Most of all, prepare the way of the Lord by joining us in song to glorify the King of kings. 

[Emphasis mine]

Um, ok.


GOP Filibusters Middle Tax Cut Again

A bill to extend the payroll tax holiday failed in the Senate this afternoon after Republicans filibustered the extension for a third time, preventing it from getting the 60 votes needed to begin debate or receive an up-or-down vote. The latest bill would have paid for the extension of the holiday, which primarily affects middle and low income Americans, by assessing a small, temporary tax on the top 0.2 percent of income earners. The vote was 50-48.

CFPB Nominee Filibustered

I don't know how the Republicans think they can possibly benefit from things like this:

Earlier today, 53 percent of the Senate voted to move forward with Richard Cordray’s nomination to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — depriving him of thesupermajority he needs in order to be confirmed. One of the senators joining this filibuster, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), was uncharacteristically candid about why he helped build this wall of obstruction — he simply wants to sabotage the agency:

I have met Mr. Cordray, and my decision to oppose his confirmation by the Senate has nothing to do with his qualifications. Rather, I feel it is my duty to oppose his confirmation as part of my opposition to the creation of CFPB itself. . . . Confirming any director for this bureau would be tantamount to agreeing that we need a uniquely powerful super-agency that is not even designed to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Until the CFPB is reformed, I will not support it in any way.

Simply put, this is nothing less than a direct assault on the rule of law. The CFPB was created by an Act of Congress and can only be repealed or modified by an Act of Congress. By his own admission, Lee’s filibuster is an attempt to make an end run around the Constitution’s legitimate lawmaking process.

But, of course, this filibuster is also just once more example of the Tea Party senator’s nihilistic approach to governance. Lee believes that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. He not only sponsored a radical constitutional amendment that would force the United States to adopt Tea Party fiscal policy forever, he then openly admitted that he was using last summer’s debt ceiling crisis to extort the rest of the Congress into passing his amendment.

People really need to stop and process this.  The CFPB is designed to protect consumers against things like preditory lending (one of the lead reasons for the economic crisis we are in), and fraud against consumers commited by banks and credit card customers.  It protects you; it protects me.  Why would any politician NOT IN THE POCKETS OF BIG BUSINESS be opposed to such a thing?

These people hate Obama so much, they are willing to hurt ordinary Americans rather than give Obama a victory.

That's messed up.

More Conservative Outrage… This Time Over The Muppets

No, really:

On Fox’s “Follow the Money,” Bolling alleged that the new Disney installment of the “The Muppets” franchise was evidence of a liberal Hollywood conspiracy to brainwash children. The film features an evil oil baron named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to raze the Muppets’ old theater to drill for the black gold. The gang reunites to host a major fundraiser to win their theater back.

Bolling saw it as an attack on the oil industry and capitalism, and invited Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center to put in his two cents. Gainor made the leap that the Muppets’ efforts to save their theater was a puppet version of the Occupy movement


I'm sure conservatives would rather see old-style Hollywood movies, like the Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life.  There, you had the wonderful old Mr. Potter, the wealthiest and most powerful man in all of Bedford Falls, and he’s depicted as this hateful villain merely because he wants George Bailey and the rest of those 99 percenters to be held accountable.

Bonus:  The idiots at Big Hollywood claim that liberals are "panicked" over the conservative Muppet backlash.  Uh, no.  We're laughing at you.


Obama’s Kids Are Eating Asian Food; Conservatives Eat Red Meat

The two Obama daughters attend Sidwell Friends School, and if you mosey on over to the school website today, you'll see that the upper and middle schools have the following for school lunch today:

Asian Mushroom Soup
Oriental Noodle Salad
Classic Spinach Salad
Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Strips
Szechuan Tofu & Veggies
Garlic Roasted Edamame
Vegetable Fried Rice
Fortune Cookies

[Emphasis mine]

OMGF!  To the Outrage-mobile, conservatives!

That's right.  That means that the President's daughters are eating Asian food, which is synonymous with Japanese food (apparently)… on the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day!  That's the day when the Japanese bombed America and we got dragged into World War II.

This therefore means that Obama hates America, and sides with the Axis (Japan, Germany, and Italy)!  We knew it all along!

Seriously, you have to ask yourself — what conservative nutbag checks out these things (i.e., the school menu of Obama's daughters) in the first place?

GOP Candidate Lie Of The Day

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." – Rick Perry in his new ad

Hey, Rick.  Kids CAN openly celebrate Christmas AND pray in school.  There's a difference between (1) schools compelling religious celebration and (2) schools squelching religious celebration.  Neither one should happen.

Did I just explode your little Texan head?

Herman Cain Reaches Out To Women

It's rather obvious to point out that Herman Cain has a "woman problem", having apparently sexually harassed several of them, and carried on a "relationship" with one for 13 years behind his wife's back.

Oh, what is a campaign to do?

This, apparently:


The newest section of Herman Cain’s website, “Women for Cain.” It is chaired by his wife and features notes from from female supporters who praise Cain and criticizes his accusers as “vindictive,” “unstable,” “desperate for their five minutes of fame,” and “pathetic husbandless women.” 

And it's lavendar, because chicks dig lavendar.

"Women for Cain" is chaired by Herman's wife, Gloria Cain.  Herman is meeting with his wife this weekend to shore up support — her support — and it's even money he'll get it.  That alone is a bad sign. 

UPDATE:  Fun with graffics (wait for it)


Good Economic News

The November jobs report is out, and the unemployment rate has dropped from from 9% to 8.6%.  That's the lowest rate since March 2009.

As is always the case, there was a significant gap between the private and public sectors. Businesses added 140,000 jobs last month, while budget cuts forced the public sector to shed 20,000 jobs, which continues to be a major drag on the overall employment picture.

Republican policymakers, it's worth noting, are eager to force more public-sector layoffs, making the jobs landscape worse on purpose, while Democrats have fought to do the opposite.

With a month remaining in 2011, we've now seen 1.45 million jobs created this year, which isn't even close to good enough, but which is the strongest year for job creation since 2006. A total of 661,000 jobs have been created since July.

But somebody somewhere isn't happy about this.  Nor are they happy that Black Friday and Cyber Monday revealed greater consumer confidence than in the past few years (confidence that caused the Dow to jump to over 12,000 for the first time in many many months).  

Who's unhappy?  Republican pols hoping to take back the White House solely on bad economic news.

What’s Up With New Hampshire Republicans?

First, the Republicans in the New Hampshire Assembly get nutcases like Orly Taitz to show up and try to get Obama's name taken off the ballet because he's a secret Kenyan Muslim not born in America and he has no birth certificate (Jeez, that old song?!?).  Here's Orly and NH State Rep. Harry Accornero making their casea:


And when the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission says "no", the Republican elected officials flip out.  Rep. Accornero went ballistic and stormed out while calling out to the commission: “Why don’t you rip up the Constitution and throw it out?” “You all should be accused of treason, and we’ll get people to do that,” he jeered. Shortly after, Rep. Susan DeLemus (R-Strafford) repeatedly berated Assistant Attorney General Matt Mavrogeorge.


So, there's that.

And then there's New Hampshire Speaker William O’Brien (R), who told a Tea Party crowd recently that he wants to make it more difficult for students to vote because they “vote their feelings” — i.e. vote as liberals:

A New Hampshire measure that ultimately failed earlier this year stoked Democratic concerns about the law’s true intentions. The law would have ended same-day registration and prohibited most college students from voting from their school addresses.

New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien, a Republican, told a tea party group thatallowing people to register and vote on Election Day led to “the kids coming out of the schools and basically doing what I did when I was a kid, which is voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do — they don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings.

And so he tried to get passed some new voter ID laws (ostensibly to fight fraud, although we know the real reason).

Fortunately, New Hampshire’s voter ID bill failed to pass.